Drugs and booze ‘root of family problems’ in Leeds

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Drugs and alcohol abuse are factors for more than half of troubled families in Leeds, according to new research.

Leeds City Council is currently reviewing its drugs and alcohol strategy, which comes with a £12.5m annual bill to the city.

However, city bosses say reducing investment is not an option and they will be rubberstamping the recommissioning of services for the coming year.

Recent research, conducted by Leeds social services on children taken into care, found that drug and alcohol use was a “clear factor” in up to 56 per cent of those families.

A high proportion of adults in drug and alcohol treatment services are parents or live with children, the team found.

The council and its partners are now developing a new “integrated” service for both adults and children which they say is “focused specifically on supporting more people to recover from drug and alcohol abuse”.

It is hoped that the plan will be a major factor in helping the authority reduce the number of looked-after children in the city.

Official figures reveal that there are currently 3,630 people in Leeds in structured treatment for drug abuse. Of those, 2,797 are opiate and crack cocaine users. There are 832 people registered with needle exchange and harm reduction services.

There are also currently 2,299 people in treatment for alcohol in the city.

At a meeting next week, senior decision-making councillors will be asked to approve the recommissioning of the city’s drug and alcohol treatment services for the coming year.

A report to the executive board says drug and alcohol treatment services “play an important part in achieving key community safety and health wellbeing outcomes for the city” and any new work “will contribute to the council’s objectives towards reducing the number of looked-after children”.

“The review and subsequent procurement processes provide an opportunity to ensure that our treatment and recovery services are able to deliver and respond effectively to the priorities agreed... and will provide positive outcomes for individuals,” the report says.

The total cost to the city’s economy of drug and alcohol abuse is around £334m, according to a recent Public Health England report. This includes £58.42m to the NHS and £114.88m for crime and licensing.

It is hoped the planned streamlining of services in Leeds into an “integrated” programme might save some money, however the amounts “are not clear at this stage”.

However, any savings would be reinvested to “ensure that it meets the needs of those in treatment in the future”, the council report says.

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